Foster children’s smiles are rewards for community gifts

LIHU‘E — Foster children don’t get bicycles for Christmas, said Marcia Ota, the foster children licensing worker when Tony Motta and Larry Wharton of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay drove up with a load of bicycles and other Christmas gifts for Kaua‘i’s foster children.

Ota and the staff of the state’s Department of Human Services, Social Services Division, Kaua‘i Child Welfare Services Section, wrapped up its holiday gift lists for the foster children on Friday with the acceptance of customized Christmas stockings from the associates at the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club in Po‘ipu. Earlier, donors including the Kaua‘i Quilt Guild which provided seven quilts, the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, and Susan Miura arrived at the DHS offices with gift contributions for the foster children.

“At any given time, we have between 50 and 60 foster children on Kaua‘i,” Ota said. “One of the worse cases we heard of involved two brothers, one 7 years old and one 3 years old, who slept between two cars.”

Ota said the boys weren’t allowed in the house where their mother lived, except to use the toilet.

“It is cold,” Ota said the older boy told her. “It gets even more cold when it rains.”

Motta said the Rotary Club of Hanalei has been providing gifts for Kaua‘i’s foster children for several years under a program started by Deanne Shaffer and Monica Oses, this year, the organization providing a dozen bicycles for children of varying ages as well as 50 gifts.

“The amount of bicycles is less than we had last year, which is a good sign,” Motta said.

Ota said Kaua‘i’s foster children come from all over and stay with foster parents and homes. The priority is to place the displaced children with relatives ahead of licensed homes.

During the holidays, the DHS relies on donors such as the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, the Waiohai and individuals such as Miura, a donor for about 25 years, to enable the foster children to have a brighter holidays.

“It’s really hard on these children who don’t have bikes when they go to school and other children have and they don’t,” Ota said.

Miura started her gift-giving to the foster children program after talking to Georgi Ching, a now-retired Child Protective Service social worker, who told her about some children needing T-shirts.

“We got them T-shirts,” said Miura, a retired counselor from the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School. “The next year, I encouraged my daughters Joy and Sara to save their money and they each bought gifts for a child.”

This practice continued for a few years before Miura shared their story with some friends who volunteered to help. As the list of needy children grew, Miura’s circle of volunteers widened.

“During the early years, we got gifts for children for whom the gifts we gave may have been the only gift the child received,” Miura said. “I always hope that we are assigned to some of Kaua‘i’s neediest children, many of whom are not placed with relatives (as foster parents).”

Miura said this year, Talen, Joy’s son, was able to participate when Joy took him to Walmart and he selected the gifts the child requested.

“Coordinating this project, purchasing, wrapping and delivering the gifts makes my Christmas more meaningful,” Miura said in an email. “I hope all who participate feel the same. There are many people who contribute to our community in larger ways. But, in our small way, this is my family’s Christmas story. I am grateful to all my friends and family who participate in this project, and to … Marcia and Georgi, for making this possible each year.”

Miura said she doesn’t need recognition for what they do.

“We just hope the child smiles when the gift is received and opened,” she said.


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